September 19, 2016

10 rules of branding for your startup or small biz

Vincent-at-preso

Vincent Dignan at his “Growth Hack Your Sales” workshop in San Francisco (photo by JD Lasica).

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, PR pros, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaLast month I attended one of the most eye-opening startup marketing/growth hacking talks I’ve seen in years, so I wanted to share some highlights for you in a short multi-part series. (I used to do this a lot more often before launching a startup!)

The event, called “Growth Hack Your Sales & Personal Branding!” and held at Galvanize in San Francisco’s SoMa, drew about 70 attendees. It was part of a multi-pronged series of presentations put on by digital marketing wunderkind Vincent Dignan, who proved his social chops by raising $95,516 on Indiegogo for the series of digital guides, “secret sauce” courses and client consultations he provides.

Vincent, who’s young enough to pass for a teenager (and may well be for all I know), is constantly online and his writings have garnered more than 150 million page views and 50 million visitors. The lad is British but has a serious case of Silicon Valley fever, so hopes to move to the U.S. next year. (He’s also available to speak at conferences, and I highly recommend him.)

This event promised “a step-by-step guide of growth hacking methods & tactics for getting users, traffic and revenue,” and who could resist that?

Vincent’s 148-slide presentation flew by too fast for the attendees to dive in too deeply, but he seemed to have his finger on the pulse of millennials and the next generation of post-mass media consumers. Here are some nuggets I thought you’d like especially valuable.

10 rules of personal branding

Vincent conveyed these 10 rules of “personal branding,” which is less about personal branding and more about building a brand for your startup, small business or client’s company:

  1. No one cares about you.
  2. People only care about what you give to them or do for them.
  3. Be everywhere but choose text, video, photos (or all three)
  4. Use influencers but don’t rely on them
  5. Building your brand is 10% content, 90% distribution
  6. 1 in 5 good posts is all you need for people to remember
  7. Copy until you develop your own style
  8. Never say no to public appearances
  9. Scale worldwide as soon as possible
  10. Be vulnerable: say what people are really feeling.

Vincent Dignan in San Francisco
Vincent at an earlier workshop in San Francisco.

The main takeaways here (and I’m extrapolating from what I remember of Vincent’s points) are that it’s easy to mistake personal storytelling and transparency for self-absorption. Don’t focus on the job you’re doing or how much you’re producing. Focus on your users or customers and how you’re going to improve their lives/save them time/help them meet their goals.

We live in a multimedia, multi-format, multi-screen world, so don’t just focus on writing a text-based blog. The next generation of users/customers (don’t call them consumers) are especially absorbed by rich visuals. Engage with people in their own (visual) language.

Influencers can help you spread your message. But a lot of campaigns that rely on social media influencers come up short because the A-listers don’t have sufficient and ongoing buy-in to your product, service or cause.

Don’t rely on the assumption, “If you create great content, they will come.” They may not. You have to work, work, work to get the word out across multiple distribution channels. Build your email list. Build a devoted following and show thought leadership on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Not every post you create has to be a home run. But don’t create one middling, muddled post after another on the theory that quantity is more important than quality. It’s not.

In a hat tip to Andy Warhol (to say nothing of Picasso and Steve Jobs), Vincent advised us to copy and steal at first. Your own voice and style will come in time.

You’re your brand’s best ambassador, so take advantage of opportunities to appear before relevant audiences. Be proactive and approach event and conference organizers six months or more before their next event in your sector.

I wouldn’t recommend this to every startup or business, especially if you haven’t achieved product-market fit yet, but Vincent’s advice is to try to scale globally sooner rather than later by using tools such as Twitter and Eventbrite.

And finally, I’ve been talking about the power of “being vulnerable” in my own public appearances for nearly a decade. Authenticity is the coin of the realm. Remove the mask, discard the filters, share what’s true and genuine.

Vincent Dignan in NYC
Vincent at a growth hacking/personal branding workshop in New York.

More growth hacking tips

You might also like Vincent’s presentation “How to Attract Humans” at Startup Britain in 2015.

And if you’re in the SF Bay Area, you should check out the outstanding talks available at Galvanize SF. I’ll be attending “How to Go from 0 to 4 Million Users in 1 Year” next Tuesday.

And Vincent will be speaking the same night at London Startup Marketing on “Let’s solve your startup marketing problems…50 Key Growth Hacks To Scale Your Business.”JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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